It’s official; the fall season is upon us. And with the fall season comes falling temperatures and an increased use of home furnaces. For many people, their furnaces are being turned on after laying dormant all summer.
It’s estimated that over 500 people will die from carbon monoxide poisoning this year alone. Officials across the nation are warning to have your furnaces checked before use. It’s a fairly inexpensive procedure and one that could potentially save your life.
Dangers of Furnaces
Gas furnaces, as the name suggests, use gas as their heat source. A small, controlled combustion warms air that is then blown into the home with a fan. In addition to producing heat, the combustion inside a gas furnace creates byproducts—including carbon monoxide. If the furnace is installed and operating properly with adequate ventilation, the furnace safely and efficiently burns the gas needed for the combustion process and a non-hazardous amount of byproducts, including carbon monoxide are vented outside of the home where they dissipate. However, if the furnace is allowed to operate without adequate ventilation, incomplete combustion can occur creating a high risk of excess amounts of combustion byproducts, including carbon monoxide, entering the home. Therefore, it is extremely important to remember to have your gas furnace inspected on a regular basis to ensure it has been installed and maintained properly with adequate ventilation.
Like any machine, furnaces break down over time. After creating and controlling thousands of small combustions, the internal mechanisms can become clogged or broken. It’s recommended that the furnace receive an annual safety inspection to make sure everything is functioning properly.
Home furnaces can also become clogged due to lack of use. During the summer months when it’s too warm to start the furnace, the ventilation system can become filled with leaves, debris or insects. These blockages can prevent poisonous carbon monoxide and other potentially toxic byproducts of the combustion process from being safely ventilated outside of the home. If carbon monoxide is unable to pass through the ventilation system due to blockage or defects in the system, the poisonous gas can mix with the air heated in the furnace, travel through the ductwork and enter your home. An annual inspection to check for blockages or defects in the ventilation system connected to your furnace will ensure this extremely dangerous and often fatal scenario does not occur in your home.
More than Just Safety
Completing an annual furnace inspection can have additional non-safety related benefits as well. A professional inspection can make sure that everything is running correctly and efficiently. It’s estimated that you can save as much as 10 percent off of your monthly heating bill due to increased efficiency from a well-cared for furnace. The cost of the inspection could pay for itself in just a few months’ savings off your heating bill.
Regular inspections can also reduce the maintenance costs. Inspections can catch any potential problems early on before those problems have a chance to do real damage. By operating a furnace without first ensuring it has been thoroughly inspected on at least an annual basis, those potential problems are left unchecked and allowed to worsen, eventually resulting in the need for costly, major repair work. Along the same line, inspections help prolong the life of the furnace. When you consider that furnaces can cost anywhere from $500 to $3000 or more, extending the life of the furnace a few years through regular maintenance ends up being financially beneficial in the long run.
Finally, in addition to having your gas furnace regularly inspected to ensure it is operating safely and efficiently, it is equally important to make sure your home is equipped with a working and regularly tested carbon monoxide alarm. Exposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal within minutes. Because this poisonous gas is odorless and tasteless, a carbon monoxide alarm is a vital safety device which could prevent serious injury or death to you and your family by providing an early warning when dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are detected in your home.